Nasa hunts down killer asteroids

Nasa hunts down killer asteroids

Summary: Nasa's orbiting Wise telescope has now detected 90 percent of the largest near-Earth asteroids in the sky, as well as conducting experiments in deep-space infrared astronomy

TOPICS: After Hours

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  • Artist's impression of a broken asteroid

    For most of the threats to mankind — war, famine, disease, environmental meltdown — technology plays second fiddle to wisdom as our best option to avert disaster. But one catastrophe can only be overcome by technology, and lots of it: asteroid impact.

    The accepted wisdom is that there have been five extinction-level impacts in the last half-billion years, each one wiping out on average half the species on earth. Unlike the dinosaurs, we have spaceflight: with current technology and enough warning, we could nudge an incoming asteroid out of harm's way. But we have to know it's there, which is where Nasa comes in.

    Image credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech

    See more space photos on ZDNet UK.

  • Nasa's Wise probe

    Launched in December 2009, Nasa's Wise mission — the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer — has scanned the sky twice between January 2010 and February 2011. As well as doing deep-space infrared astronomy, it also hosted the Neowise near-Earth orbit asteroid-hunting mission, and those results are out.

    Nasa now thinks that 90 percent of the largest near-Earth asteroids have been found and that there are around 19,500 mid-size ones out there — a much smaller number than the 35,000 previously estimated.

    Image credit: Nasa

    See more space photos on ZDNet UK.

Topic: After Hours

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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